Rogan is not in the best of moods today. You can tell by the way he’s banging his head against the corridor pin board where the handprint and footprint spring flowers are displayed.
All attempts to placate him have so far failed.
Not even the promise of double stickers on his “I can do it” star chart can persuade him to go back into class.
It seems there is only one option left open to us. The Nurture Team are locked, loaded and ready to spring into action when Rogan is suddenly distracted by the sound of music. The choir are in the hallway practising for our summer production. One of the songs they will be singing is the Leonard Cohen classic, Hallelujah. It begins with the line, “Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord.” The question for us is: will it please Rogan?
He briefly considers our offer for him to join the choir before deciding to reject it on the grounds that the song is boring. Music may have charms to soothe a savage breast, but it can only briefly stop Rogan headbutting the display board.
In order to prevent concussion in the short term and dementia in the long term, we need to find a secret chord that he does like.
My daughter frequently uses music to soothe our baby granddaughter. When breast is no longer best, and when sleep is the enemy and no amount of jiggling can put an end to the distress, a few taps on a smartphone can produce almost instant contentment. We give it a try, but the happy strains of Say Hello to the Sun by Baby Sensory don’t have the same soothing effect on Rogan.
Children’s musical tastes can be very specific. When I was a child in the early sixties, I wore the grooves out of Frank Ifield’s The Yodelling Song by repeatedly playing it on our Alba portable record player.
While there’s no evidence that my efforts to sing along caused my mother’s addiction to antidepressants, the thought of Rogan yodelling for hours on end is not something any of us wishes to contemplate without drugs.
There is one chance left. When Rogan was a student in our integrated resource unit, he liked one song more than any other. On the days in which I brought in my guitar, as well as a box of things to shake, rattle and bang, his hand would be the first one up with the same song request. And despite the groans of other children, I always gave in to him. Democracy is a wonderful thing, but it’s not as good as freedom from temper tantrums.
Rogan is persuaded back into the classroom with an offer to assist me in leading our next activity. He won’t sit in the circle, but he will sit on a chair by my side. And because he knows all the words to the song, he’ll help me teach it to the rest of the class.
I begin strumming a rhythm using the not-so-secret-chord, D, which pleases him because a minute later he is happily singing, “Yellow bird up high in banana tree…”
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield